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European Union funded STRIDE program holds its first National Steering Committee

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The European Union (EU) and the State Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government Affairs co-chaired the first National Steering Committee for the Strengthening Transformation, Reconciliation and Inclusive Democratic Engagement (STRIDE) program recently.

STRIDE is a multi-stakeholder initiative worth over nine billion rupees, funded by the EU to promote dialogue between communities and local governments by improving access and quality of services at local level. The activities are implemented by the World Bank (WB), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the British Council together with The Asia Foundation (TAF) in partnership with the State Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government Affairs as well as the Ministry of Justice.

Under the STRIDE umbrella, the WB provides small grants to local authorities, UNDP provides capacity building, and the British Council together with TAF promotes mediation as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism at the community level.

Speaking at the Steering Committee meeting, Frank Hess, Head of Development Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives said, “In the EU, we believe that good governance and community participation in the planning and decision-making processes will contribute to everybody’s benefit. Local authorities should engage with people, mobilise and listen to their opinions and act as catalyst for change in every community, and in this program we are seeing this happening. Therefore, I am glad that the EU is funding this program with 40 million euros (over 9 billion rupees).”

Commenting on the STRIDE Steering Committee, S. D. A. D. Boralessa, Secretary, State Ministry of Provincial Councils and Local Government Affairs, noted, “it is a great honor to co-chair the National Steering Committee for the STRIDE program, which aims to improve the access and quality of local government services in 134 Local Authorities in Northern, Eastern, North Central and Uva Provinces in Sri Lanka. This steering committee will definitely enhance the results for assistance made by European Union and the World Bank and also minimize the bottlenecks at the implementation. I believe that the valuable guidance by the steering committee will generate more benefits to the people in the country.”

Speaking on UNDP’s role, Navaneethan Vijayakumar, Project Manager from UNDP in Sri Lanka said, “It is a pleasure to see stakeholders with diverse backgrounds coming together to provide important feedback to improve the implementing partners’ efforts and maximize the finite resources available. We are confident that with the guidance of the Steering Committee, we can work towards reaching our project goals that will in turn bring local authorities to the forefront in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”  

An important part of the program, and its National Steering Committee, is to listen to voices from local authorities at national, provincial, district and local levels.

Ms. Savithri Wijesekara, Executive Director of Women in Need (WIN), a member of the Committee noted that “the program initiated at the local government level has to be inclusive, responsive and accountable and build institutional capacity to provide good and effective service delivery to benefit cross communities of people. The inclusivity and engagement of the local government with civil society, the poor and the marginalized in development plans will strengthen and help in reconciliation, gender responsiveness and local needs.”

Asoka Gunawardana, Chairman, Marga Institute, fellow member of the Steering Committee sharing his thoughts said that “bringing together government and civil society representatives at the Steering Committee is a valuable chance to exchange views and share experiences”.

The STRIDE program is expected to run until 2023 and to benefit approximately one million Sri Lankans under over 100 local government authorities in the Northern, Eastern, Uva and North Central Provinces.

 

 

 



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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border

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BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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Gas prices up

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State-owned Litro has increased the price of domestic gas with effect from midnight yesterday.

Chairman of Litro Company Muditha Peiris said the price of a 12.5 kg domestic gas cylinder would be increased by Rs 334, the price of a 5 kg gas cylinder by Rs 135 and the price of a 2.3 kg gas cylinder by Rs 61 .The 12.5 kg cylinder is Rs 4,743.

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